The things you hear when you listen carefully

I’m white. I can’t imagine what people of color go through.

But I listen when they tell their stories. I also listen to what white people are saying. I listen very carefully.

For those of us who listen, this is a horror show.

I’m not a racist, but…

A few years ago, my country (Bulgaria) hit the international news in Europe because, during a soccer game with England, the Bulgarian fans were taunting the Black English players with Nazi salutes and monkey noises.

Fines were issued, formal apologies were begrudgingly given. Mostly, Bulgarians were offended. We think of ourselves as very tolerant. …


Strangers can’t tell you how to help yourself

When you see an article such as “Here’s Why Being Yourself is Bad Advice” or “Do This [random thing] and It Will Change Your Life” or the endless “7 habits” and “6 traits” listicles about successful, unsuccessful, happy, and miserable people or, my personal favorite, “X mind hacks” to achieve this or that — when you see those articles, what do you think will happen when you click? What is the best possible thing they can give you?

Change your life? Come on.

Tell you something new? Doubt it.

Give you a fresh perspective on something? Maybe. …


The Megan Meier and Lori Drew case that ended in a death

You know the “mean girls” trope. You’ve heard — or worse, experienced — how female bullies tend to use psychological rather than physical warfare. How they seek out where you are most vulnerable, how they undermine your confidence, how they work to isolate you, erode your sense of self-worth and identity, push you to self-loathing.

For many children, school becomes a war zone. They age out of it with emotional wounds that bleed for years, if not decades.

But what happens to the bullies? Do they grow up to be good people? Do they stay the same?

In the case…


Depression only goes away when you look it in the eye

For several years, I suffered from debilitating depression. I’ve heard all the “Just go out more,” “Just smile,” “I’ve had it worse than you” platitudes from what were, then, my closest people.

Today, I don’t suffer from depression but I sometimes get depressed. I’ve learned to welcome these seasons, regardless of whether they last one day or one week.

“Depression is like a woman in black. If she turns up, don’t shoo her away. Invite her in, offer her a seat, treat her like a guest, and listen to what she has to say. ”

Carl Jung

What does it mean to be “depressed?”

From the outside…


Yet again, it all comes back to the Nazis

In 2016, two cars crossed paths on a central road of the Bulgarian town Radnevo. A group of four men emerged from one car, a group of three men emerged from the other. They locked into a physical fight. The group of four severely beat up the group of three. Lungs were punctured, skulls were fractured.

Once ambulances and authorities got involved, it became clear that the group of four were Roma and the group of three were white Bulgarians. The Roma were rushed to jail, the Bulgarians to the hospital.

But this was far from over. News of this…


There’s only one answer to that: “It’s none of your business.”

A woman I’m friendly with and who I see about once a month, said to me last year,“It’s time for you to have kids. Come on. I’ll hassle you about it every time I see you.”

She kept her word. Every time I saw her after that, she would urge me to have kids, tell me to stop procrastinating, and throw in a “Come on!” as if I was a distracted farm animal that just needed to be nudged in the right direction.

But she’s not the worst I’ve had. …


How to tell if cutting your ties is the right decision

A few months ago, my father was dying. Both he and my mother had COVID. They both ended up hospitalized. He didn’t make it.

During this time of crisis, I was the one getting updates from hospitals and calling relatives to keep everyone informed. One of the people I talked with daily was my one surviving grandparent — my mother’s mother.

During one of our calls in the “early days” — when they were both very sick but still at home — my grandmother did something very typical of her. She said, “Well, your father is weak, you know. The…


How far did ‘WandaVision’ explore her identity?

I’ve never been big on superhero movies but the new WandaVision series struck a chord. Something about the character of Wanda Maximoff felt very familiar.

At first, I thought, “It’s because she’s Eastern European, like me.”

Then I thought, “It’s because she’s struggling with grief and loss, like me.”

But no, there was more. Hexes. “Chaos” magic. Indomitable, reality-altering power — “wasted” on a woman who just wants a simple life with her husband and children.

Why did that feel so familiar?

Turns out, it was because I was raised right next to it. …


How the Bulgarian government sank the economy and got itself removed from power

Before the Bulgarian Communist Party came to power in 1944, the word “communist” stirred up images of revolution, resistance, and opposition. The party was founded in 1919 and, in ideological lockstep with the Bolsheviks in Russia, challenged the status-quo of the ruling bourgeois class.

In the 25 years before they seized power, the Communists organized multiple armed coup attempts and uprisings against the fascist government. When Bulgaria allied with Hitler in World War II (WWII), the Communists led the resistance.

The repercussions were severe. The uprising and coup attempts were squashed with increasing brutality. Many of the fighters were rounded…


Four women in a game of prejudice. Prejudice won.

“Why on Earth… Has he lost his mind?”

This was whispered with raised eyebrows and followed by a somber sip of coffee by yet another neighbor visiting my grandma Mimi in the afternoon lull.

Baba Mimi and her many friends

Grandma Mimi, or Baba Mimi in my native Bulgarian, was always in the center of things. Jovial, welcoming, a great listener, always ready to laugh at jokes, always ready to help people out, she was now a retiree in a Soviet-style building full with other retirees. …

Martina Petkova

I tell stories about history and the human psyche. Let’s connect: https://martinapetkova.com

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